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Natural remedies for colds, other rainy season-related ailments

By Chukwuma Muanya and Adaku Onyenucheya
30 August 2018   |   1:20 am
The weather has been very cold in recent times. This is not unconnected with heavy rains that have characterised this season. Unfortunately, it is a season that comes with cold, cough, catarrh and other respiratory diseases like pneumonia and sinusitis as well as water-borne ailments such as diarrhoea and cholera.

• Doctors recommend honey for treating colds

The weather has been very cold in recent times. This is not unconnected with heavy rains that have characterised this season. Unfortunately, it is a season that comes with cold, cough, catarrh and other respiratory diseases like pneumonia and sinusitis as well as water-borne ailments such as diarrhoea and cholera. However, scientists have identified and validated natural remedies for rainy season-related ailments.

Until now, several local herbs have been shown to have antibacterial and antiviral properties, while there are no cures for the flu virus, researchers suggest that many natural remedies can ease the symptom, which have been shown to provide relief and prevent viral infections.Top on the list is gin-garlic, which has been touted as the most potent herbal combination in the world. It has been used to treat from heart diseases to tuberculosis. A cocktail of ginger and garlic has been shown to be effective in bursting the cold and influenza viruses.

A United Kingdom research suggests people who take a garlic supplement each day are far less likely to fall victim to the common cold than those who do not. Meanwhile, health officials recently advised medical professionals not to administer drugs to patients, but rather encourage them to use self-care products such as honey and lemon in an effort to tackle the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

According to the guidance by Public Health England (PHE) and the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (Nice), acute cough, in most cases are caused by a cold or flu virus, or bronchitis, and will last for around three weeks.Nigerian researchers have also demonstrated that local species can be successfully used to beat the cold virus.The spices include: Pepper fruit; African pepper; Scent leaf; Thyme; Onion; Garlic; Nutmeg; Benin pepper; Black pepper; Wild pepper; Curry leaf; Chilli pepper; Red pepper; Grains of paradise; and Ginger.

A study by Ndukwu B.C and Ben-Nwadibia N.B of the Department of Plant Science and Biotechnology, University of Port Harcourt titled “Etnomedicinal aspects of plants used as spices and condiments in the Niger Delta area of Nigeria” found 23 local spices to have varying therapeutic applications by the local communities.Their uses in ethno-medicine include acting as stimulants, antiseptic carminatives, expectorants, laxatives, purgatives, anticonvulsant, antihelmintic, and sedatives to the treatment of diarrhoea, malaria, rheumatism, asthma, catarrh and bronchitis.

The study observed that the indigenous people value the plants more for their ethno-medicinal uses than for spicing foods. For instance, ginger is more valued for its treatment of coughs, asthma, colds and hypertension than as condiment.Garlic (Allium sativum) is of plant family Liliaceae. Local names: Igbo – ayuu; Yoruba – ayu. The bulb is used for fevers, coughs, constipation, asthma, nervous disorders, hypertension, ulcers and skin diseases. It is highly bacteriostatic (stops the growth of bacteria), fungicidal (kills fungi) and antihelmintic.

According to the study, crushed garlic (soup) is used against microbial infection, asthma cough and respiratory problems. The juice of the bulb is given as eardrops against earaches. As a seasoning and flavouring agent, garlic is principally taken against fevers and chills.A cold infusion serves as a body-wash for infants as protection against chills. The bulb also serves as effective remedy for hypertension, muscular pain, giddiness and sore eyes. It is digestive and carminative and removes pains of the bowels. When powdered with nation it is applied as a dressing on ulcers and skin diseases.

Before now, garlic has been traditionally used to fight-off and treat the symptoms of the common cold.A United Kingdom study found that a daily garlic supplement containing allicin, a purified component of garlic considered to be the major biologically active agent produced by the plant, reduced the risk of catching a cold by more than half. It also found that allicin-containing garlic supplements were effective in treating infections caused by the hospital superbug, Multi-drug Resistant Staphylococcus Aureous (MRSA).

A total of 146 volunteers took part in the experiment, which was led by Peter Josling, director the Garlic Centre in East Sussex, United Kingdom.Half took one capsule of Allimax, an allicin-containing garlic supplement, each day, while the remaining volunteers were given a placebo.

Over a 90-day period during the winter when most colds occur, just 24 colds were recorded among those taking the supplement, compared to 65 amongst those taking the placebo.The study also found that those taking the supplement who did catch a cold were more likely to make a speedier recovery than those taking the placebo and the chances of re-infection following a cold were significantly reduced. Josling said the results of his research could revolutionise future treatments of the common cold.

He said: “We have been searching for a cure for the common cold for years. Now we have gone one step further and even found prevention.“The common cold is something that affects everyone in this country for extended periods of time. If we can prevent people catching a cold it will have a huge impact, at the very least on the British economy.”Also, Lemon and honey have been recommended to be the go-to treatment for coughs and colds instead of instantly reaching for the antibiotics, which according to new advice makes little difference to symptoms and can have side-effects.

Patients are also advised to try honey or cough medicines containing pelargonium, guaifenesin or dextromethorphan, which have been shown to have some benefit for cough symptoms, before contacting their doctor.Until now, ginger has been extensively used in herbal remedies. In fact, ginger has been used to control or prevent nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness; as an anti-inflammatory (a drug that reduces pain and swelling as in arthritis), a cold remedy, an aid to digestion; a remedy for intestinal gas.Ginger (Zingiber officinale) is of plant family Zingiberaceae. Local Names: Efik/Ibibio – jinja; Igbo – jinja; Yoruba – aje, orin, atale. The rhizome is used to toothache, congested nostrils, cough, colds, influenza and flu, asthma, stomach problems, rheumatism, piles, hepatitis and liver problems.

The University of Port Harcourt researchers indicate that raw ginger is often masticated as a stimulant, stomach tonic, relief of congested nostrils and toothaches. Decoction of the rhizome is used as stimulant, carminative, expectorant and rubefacient. It is also used against problems of the digestive systems. The paste made from the rhizome is used in treating infective hepatitis and related liver problems. Ginger tea is commonly taken against coughs, colds and flu.

“Gingerol” is one of the oleoresin compounds found in ginger. It is also the spiciest part of the rhizome and may be specifically responsible for coming to the aid of cold symptoms. When heated, it becomes sweeter by nature and known as “zingerone.” As the ginger root, or rhizome, begins to dry, shagaols also form. These, like gingerol, seem to provide some positive benefits.Hot ginger teas have been shown to be one of the ways to enjoy the benefits of ginger and possibly relieve cold symptoms. The steaming effect is part of the reason it can clear congestion and soothe the linings of a stuffy nose.

Red onion (Allium cepa) is of plant family Liliaceae. Local names: Edo – alubarha; Efik/Ibibio – oyim mbakara; Igbo – yabasi; Yoruba – alubosa. The leaves and bulb are used for asthma, convulsion, hypotension, ulcers, cough, cold and skin infections.According to the study, onion bulb serves as a stimulant and expectorant. Generally antimicrobial, it is usually crushed and its juice used against skin infections and insect bites. The roasted onion or its compress is used as poultice for tumours, ulcers, earaches and piles.

Juice of onion is mixed with honey in the treatment of asthma, cough, cold convulsion and hypotension. Fresh onion leaves is mostly used to eat roasted meat (suya) as a carminative and to reduce cholesterol level. Onion bulb is mostly used for flavouring and garnishing soup and foods.Next on the list is Pepper fruit, which is botanically called Denniettia tripetala and belongs to the plant family Annonaceae. In Nigeria, it is ako in Edo; nkarika in Ibibio/Efik; nmimi in Igbo; imako in Urhobo; and igberi in Yoruba. The study found that the leaves, fruits and seeds are chewed for cough and enhancing appetite. The Igbos eat the fruits and seeds with kolanut (Cola spp). Decoction of the fresh leaves are mixed with those of Mango leaves (Mangifera indica) to treat fever.

Ethopian pepper, African pepper or Guinea pepper (Xylopia aethiopica) is of the plant family Annonaceae. The Edo calls it unien; Ibibio/Efik-atta; Igbo – uda; Urhobo- urheri; and Yoruba – eeru. The stem bark, fruits, seeds and roots are used for stomach aches; dysentery; bronchitis; cancer; ulcers; fever and debility; rheumatism; post-partum management and fertility-enhancing; and vermifuge (a medication capable of causing the evacuation of parasitic intestinal worms).

Fruit extract or decoction of the bark is drunk for the treatment of bronchitis and dysenteric conditions; and also as a medicine for biliousness and febrile pains. The powdered root is used as a dressing for sores and rubbed onto gums for pyorrhea and in the local treatment of cancer. Powdered bark is dusted onto ulcers to enhance healing. The decoction of the leaves and roots is used generally as tonic and often mixed with salt to cure constipation.

Extracts of the pungent leaves are used as an emetic, carminative, purgative and revulsive against pains and rheumatism. The powder of the seeds is used to prepare special pepper soup given to lactating mothers. The fruit extract is also used to aid conception and as a vermifuge for round worms. Pergularia daemia of the plant family Asclepiadaceae has no common English name. To the Igbo it is utazi; and Yoruba – teji. The leaves, stem and root barks are used for cough, fever, catarrh and diarrhoea in infants.

Sweet basil, Hairy basil, Tea bush, or Scent leaf (Ocimum species) belong to the plant family Labiateae. About six different species in this genus are commonly used by the people of this region. The species include: Ocimum basilicum; O. canum; O. gratissimum; O. americanum; O. guineense; and O. viride. Local names: Edo – esewon; Igbo – nchanwu, Urhobo – ufuo-yibo; Yoruba – efinruin-wewe, efinrin-ajase, efirinpo, efirin-gidi and efirin-ajija. The whole plants and leaves are used as an anticonvulsant, diaphoretic and carminative. It cures cough, catarrh, cold, fever, chest pains and diarrhoea. Others are earache, ringworm, nasal bleeding, anti-spasmolytic and relief of pains of the colon.

According to the study, the leaves are chopped up and eaten as a febrifuge. Powdered form of the leaves is taken internally for catarrh. A paste of the leaves is applied topically against ringworm and skin diseases. Seed infusion is prepared to treat gonorrhoea, nephritic and urinary infections, diarrhoea and chronic dysentery.The warm extract of the leaves is used in instillations for otitis media, sinusitis and in fumigations for cough and headache. The roots of these species together with the leaves of Jatropha curcas and fruit of Xylopia aethiopica is boiled and given to children as a strengthening tonic.The leaves of these species are usually very aromatic. They are thus used for seasoning and flavouring sauces, salads and soups. The scent of the plant is also used to protect against snakes.

Thyme (Thymus vulgaris) is of plant family Labiateae. The leaves and fruits are used as antiseptic, antihelmintic (worm expeller), expectorant (cough medication), carminative (an herb or preparation that either prevents formation of gas in the stomach), diuretic (induces urination and for hypertension), emmenagogic (a medicine that promotes the menstrual discharge) and sedative.Thyme leaves and fruits are rich in thymol. The powdered form of the foliage is prepared and used in food for both seasoning and curative purposes.
Black pepper; white pepper (Piper nigrum) is of plant family, Piperaceae. Local names are unknown. The fruits and seeds are used to cure dyspepsia (indigestion), diarrhoea, cholera, piles, urinary problems, boils, rheumatism, toothaches and headaches.

According to the researchers, the fruits are highly aromatic. They are used for carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic and antiperiodic purposes. Paste made from ground seeds is applied locally against boils, rheumatic pains, headaches and toothache. Powder of the fruits is mixed with honey in the treatment of dyspepsia, debility, diarrhoea, cholera, piles and urinary tract problems. The extracts of the fruits is given as an antidote in arsenic poisoning.

Cayenne, African pepper, Guinea pepper, Bir pepper and Chilies (Capsicum species) are of the plant family Solanaceae. According to the study, three main species occur and are used in the area. They are: Capsicum annuum (Red pepper or chilies); Capsicum frutescens (Red pepper or Tatashi); and Capsicum minimum (African pepper). Local Names: Edo – isie, ekie, asie; Efik/Ibibio – ntokon, aman-ntuen, ntueen; Igbo – ose, ose-oyibo, ose etore, ose nukwu, ose nwamkpi, ose mkpe; Yoruba – ata-jije; ata-eiye; ata sisebe.

The fruits and seeds are used to cure cold, fever, dysentery, malaria and gonorrhoea. The researchers indicate that the fruits and seeds of pepper are highly pungent. They are used as stimulants and enhancing the circulation of blood, especially in cold conditions. They also serve as carminatives and rubefacients. Preparations of the fruits are taken against fever and dysentery.

Powdered chilies are mixed with palm oil in treating cuts, wounds and dog bites.Grains of paradise, Guinea grains or Alligator pepper (Aframomum melegueta) is of the plant family Zingiberaceae. Local Names: Edo – ehin-edo, ehie ado, Igbo – ose oji, Urhobo – erhie, Yoruba – oburo, ata, ata-ire. The rhizome, leaves, fruits and seeds are used to cure worms, small pox, chicken pox, catarrh, congested chest, fractures, hypertension and cholera.

The researchers indicate that the fruits and seeds are commonly used as an ingredient of many local herbal preparations. They are usually used as stimulants, carminatives and in vermifuge, especially among the Ijaws. The powdered rhizome with table salt is specially given as vermifuge for round worms. The decoction of the leaves together with the leaves of Momordica charantia and Sorghum arundinaceum cereal in local dry gin (alcohol) is recommended to be taken one dose daily against cholera.The decoction of the leaves is used for small pox and chicken pox. When the decoction of the leaves is mixed with leaves of lime, lemon grass and mango it is used as remedy for catarrh while the steam from the decoction is inhaled for congested chest.

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